Former Silverthorne resident survives doomed rescue mission | SummitDaily.com
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Former Silverthorne resident survives doomed rescue mission

AP Photo
AP | UNALASKA COMMUNITY BROADCASTING

KODIAK, ALASKA ” A former Silverthorne resident and Summit High School graduate survived a freighter ripped in half by rocks and a helicopter that crashed trying to rescue the crew on Wednesday while fulfilling his duties as a swimmer in the U.S. Coast Guard.

According to the Associated Press, Petty Officer Third Class Aaron Bean, 23, was attempting to rescue about two dozen stranded crewmembers from a freighter that ran aground in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, when the rescue helicopter crashed.

Bean, who was part of the helicopter crew, had been lowered onto the freighter’s deck with the task of loading the crewmembers into a basket so they could be lifted up to safety, said Chris Bogott, Bean’s mother.



Bean had sent up two separate groups of nine people and had just loaded the last six people in the basket when the helicopter plunged into the Bering Sea, Bogott said.

Bean and the freighter’s captain were left unscathed on the ship, which later ran aground and split in half, while the two were still on board.



“He felt very, very alone. He couldn’t see his crew and he believed them to be dead,” Bogott said of Bean’s reaction to the incident.

The entire helicopter crew survived, but the Coast Guard is still searching for the six freighter crew members who were in the basket at the time of the crash.

Bean and the captain were later plucked off the broken freighter by another Coast Guard helicopter.

Bogott said she found about the incident Thursday morning at 6:45 a.m. when she woke up to a phone call from Bean’s commanding officer.

“He said, I’m just calling to let you know your son’s okay. It was the strangest call I’ve ever had in my life. I just couldn’t imagine why I was getting that phone call,” Bogott said.

The officer explained the details of the accident, but Bogott couldn’t process anything.

“When you get a phone call like that, you’re expecting to hear your son’s dead. That’s what I expected to hear, so anything he said was a tremendous relief.”

From the phone conversation, Bogott knew her son was alive, but the details of the incident didn’t sink in until she started reading stories about the crash on the Internet.

“All of a sudden I was aghast. I didn’t envision my son being involved in this.”

Bogott finally heard from her son later that evening, after many stressful hours wondering whether he really was safe.

“He was very, very grateful, especially for all of his training,” she said.

Bean had finished up his year-long rescue swimmer training in North Carolina in May and moved to Kodiak, Alaska in June. Wednesday’s assignment was only Bean’s second mission in his new position, Bogott said.

Bean moved with his family to Summit County from Aurora, Colorado in 1998 and graduated from Summit High School in 2001.

He attended Colorado Mountain College and worked as a lifeguard at the Silverthorne Recreation Center, before enlisting in the Coast Guard two years ago.

His job as a lifeguard turned out to be a major factor in Bean choosing to go into the Coast Guard.

“He was there during a drowning (several years ago) and was extremely shaken up,” explained Bogott. “Sept. 11 had a lot to do with it as well.”

Bean is a lifelong swimmer, but interviewed with all the branches of the military before deciding the Coast Guard would be the best fit.

According to a press release from the U.S. Coast Guard, the problems began when the Malaysian freighter’s main engine ceased, causing the vessel to drift within two miles of Unalaska Island.

It was on its way to Tacoma, Wash., to deliver soybeans.

The Coast Guard sent in three tug boats and one cutter in an unsuccessful attempt to slow the freighter down, before deciding to send in Bean’s helicopter crew to rescue the crewmembers.

No information has been released on the cause of the helicopter crash.

When the freighter ripped in two, thousands of gallons of heavy bunker fuel and diesel poured out, threatening a nearby wildlife refuge.

The Coast Guard is still working to contain the spill.

Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or at nformosa@summitdaily.com


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